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An Analysis of Differences in Work Motivation between Public and Private Sector Organizations

Authors


Marc Buelens is a professor of management at both Ghent University and the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium. His research focuses on workaholism, decision making, and negotiation. He advises organizations on building bridges between art and business and acts as a consultant to an ethical investment fund. He has published books in Dutch, French, and English.
E-mail:marc.buelens@vlerick.be.

Herman Van den Broeck is professor of organizational behavior at both Ghent University and the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium. His research focuses on cognitive styles, nonprofit management, and change management. He acts as an adviser to the government in public management. He has published on school management, the learning organization, and cognitive styles.
E-mail:herman.vandenbroeck@vlerick.be.

Abstract

This study contributes to our understanding of the differences in work motivation between the public and private sectors. Data from a survey of 3,314 private sector and 409 public sector employees in Belgium strongly confirm previous research showing that public sector employees are less extrinsically motivated. Differences in hierarchical level are more important determinants of work motivation than sectoral differences. In addition, most observed differences can be wholly or partially explained by differences in job content, not by the sector itself. Evidence is presented to show that motivational differences can be explained by a positive choice of work–life balance.

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